Multitouch trackpad goodness

I understand the desire for an ultra-light laptop, but there has always seemed to be a limit to which people will sacrifice functionality for weight. In the case of the MacBook Air announced at MacWorld that missing functionality will be the non-replaceable battery. The prime target for an ultraportable laptop is the traveller, and if you travel you want to be able to change the battery. I travel frequently for work and know many other people that do as well, and the standard pack includes a second fully charged battery. There will be initial sales as what is known in the industry as “executive jewellery” but long term success for this product will require at the least an external battery option.

What I liked about the product was the multitouch trackpad, which I presume is licensed from Elantech (as seen at CES). While the demo’s for this will invariably all involve people manipulating images, I think this inovation has real business advantage for mobile users. I would equate the benefits from this feature to the trackpad as to the scroll wheel for the mouse. Multitouch for the trackpad allows aditional contexts to the same action dependant on a secondary finger position or movement.

If you own a MacBook you are probably already familiar with two finger scroll. If you drag down the trackpad with two fingers instead of one you scroll instead of moving the cursor. This is not multitouch, just registering a single wider touch. With multitouch you could do the same , but the distance between your fingers can dictate the speed, e.g. wide apart for slow, close together for fast. The pinching to zoom function would work well when navigating pdf files with TOC and find open (Those that use Acrobat Reader a lot know what I mean). It also opens the door for lots of ‘gesture’ style shortcuts.

Consumer love can create a great niche for a company, but the technologies that boom are those that business adopt. In the multitouch trackpad I see something that will make a difference to business laptop users. I am sure this feature will make it quickly to the greater range of Apple laptops, and to other manufacturers.